180 days of film by Andrew Walmsley
It all began a long time ago, in a land not too far away. Well sort of.
Let me introduce myself, I go by the name phlogger as I like to blog and shoot (hence photo blogger). In real life I am a middle aged man who is getting greyer as the years pass!
Don’t assume the number of decades I have lived as a mortal man mean anything. I am simple and so terribly inexperienced with any form of art! Photography is a new passion that has come from nowhere. As of the year 2015 there was no-one around me who was in to photography or anything creative like this field (except a small minority of people I knew).
So when it comes to film, I have to be honest, it is something i just wanted to try (the low price point of camera equipment was well within my limited budget). Also, after hearing such stellar things about old glass, I jumped onboard as they would be useful for my mirrorless camera anyway.
As a keen blogger, the idea was to write about my experience with film and hopefully one day help others. After all the best sign of experience is to teach someone else and spread the word. It is important in any field to try, learn and keep passion alive. Just because something like film has been replaced (in the eyes of the public) with digital, it does not mean it is superior.
Throughout the work you should notice there is a lack of technical information, towards camera shots, types of camera or film and any techniques used. This is done on purpose, the camera and technology is not important, it is just a lump of metal and plastic. The person who wields this instrument of light and magic is all that matters.
So let us move on, enough ramblings about the phlogger, let us look at this project.
During January 2017, the 180 days of film project started and who would know what could happen and what the results would be. The project was initiated which included some goals to aim for. Of course this would all be dependant on many factors – time, money, practise, effort and ability.
If you read the blog, you will see there was an article at the beginning for the project specification, then a follow up progress report after a few months and then finally a conclusion.
Basically the approach was to sell the digital gear to fund these 6 months shooting. These would be the constraints for the project:
- Only use 2 cameras
- No buying lenses
- Shoot expired film (where possible)
- Shots must include long exposure
- Shots must include double exposure
- Learn to use flash
- Learn to meter
- Learn how to develop
- Figure out how to scan
From a beginner’s perspective this was nothing short of intimidating and after starting the list, 6 months seemed such a short space of time for someone with no experience!
During the project
Undertaking a project like this was scary, because the initial idea was to sell the digital camera and concentrate on film. However, this did not quite pan out, after starting it seemed logical to use digital for times when really needed (especially with family).
Using a variety of expired film (Fuji C200) gifted by friends and Agfa Vista 200 from Poundland, the journey started. There were some very mixed results despite using the same camera (Olympus OM10) and lens (mainly a 50mm f/1.8 prime).
As the months moved on and more films developed there seemed to be a reason for the good and bad exposures – the companies developing the film. After sticking with the 3rd company the results became more consistent.
Becoming more confident in shooting and knowing the lens and camera, you suddenly change from shooting 2 exposures to “ensure” you get the shot to frequently just taking 1! Trust me, it is a great feeling looking back through you scans and seeing 95% of your shots are correctly exposed.
Of course there are bad shots, but these were due to awkward lighting, wrong settings or just bad composition. Occasionally there were some shots not entirely in focus, which still needs to be analysed (could be slow shutter or the aperture wide open).
As July crept in, the film work became more and more enjoyable to the extent I could not stop talking about film.
After 6 months of shooting it certainly was not plain sailing. The list of failures seemed high. The main pain points were developing at home, because of failure on the first attempt and the same for scanning at home (lack of macro/bellows/equipment). However, failure just leads to more challenges to improve and this is not life or death. There will be opportunities in the future to try and improve. If you want more detail on what happened please check the blog articles.
Finally trying medium format with the Bronica and succeeding I can clarify – there is no hope for me! The phlogger is well and truly hooked on film! Medium format was fantastic. Holding something so large and using it with a waist level viewfinder was so different. Shooting street and portraiture was fun and difficult, it is so weird that there the view is backwards (SLR use a mirror to correct this).
After the first 4 rolls were shot and sent off, the nerves kicked in, the company said the package came open during transportation and warned some film was exposed. The lab were fantastic and every single shot was exposed correctly, again proving the equipment and photographers ability. Like any roll, there were good and bad, but if you look at the Instagram feed in my profile below, hopefully you will agree the shots are okay for a first attempt.
So after the 180 days of film project, I have learned I can use old equipment and deliver good results. The project taught me many lessons:
- Film is not dead
- Film does slow you down
- Using a prime lens keeps you mobile
- Small size means it’s easy to fit in bag with digital equipment
- Quality is comparable to digital
- Helps push you to work harder (fixed iso)
- Social engagement with strangers
- Pride that you can produce quality work with 40 year old equipment
Last but not least, online communities are full of help!
Thanks for reading,
~ Andrew Walmsley
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